Sunday 29 September 2013

Games Day 2013: Going Gonzo

Seminars and engaging in the tongue in cheek snark that was my "fake rumour competition" aside, I didn't really take many notes while talking to people this year. This is a shame, as I generally like to be able to give folk credit for things I pick up while I'm ambling around the hall. I'm not one to post "things people shouldn't be saying". I'll generally try not to lead staffers onto the topics that they can't discuss, and if we hit those topics, I'll generally quickly say "but you can't talk about that" and move on. There's no point wasting my time or theirs dancing around them not telling me anything I'm interested in.

It was a little bit of a pain when I arrived as there was a lot of building work going on around the NIA, and as a result, it was a bit hard to find your way around to the front of the building from my hotel. The large queue of people helped you find where to go, but the separate entry for Golden Demon entrants wasn't mentioned or documented until you were already in the other queue, and some of the people I was with had been unfortunate enough to be in the Golden Demon queue without an entry. Clear signposting and advanced information next time, please, Games Workshop!

While I was in the queue, I found a full page advert in the programme which I had time to upload to the Bell of Lost Souls forum, despite saying I wouldn't post anything until the evening. I then utterly failed as a gonzo journalist by not getting over to the Digital Publications team to get them to spill the beans as to what will be in the new Codex Supplement.

Still, it was nice to see new book releases, whether digital or physical, being first announced at Games Day. And it also wasn't the only one! I found a couple of other 'new' things on the tables as I pottered around.

This weighty box caught my interest - it wasn't anything I'd seen before. After figuring out its clever magnetic locking clasp, this is what I found:

This is a collector's box, consisting of Codex: Chaos Space Marines, Codex: Chaos Demons, Codex: Black Legion, and then, because they all have new cover art, a card slip case containing some prints of the original art for each of the covers. It's a very nice collector's piece, and if something like this comes out for the Guard, I'll be buying it in a heartbeat...

And another book that you first saw at Games Day: Armies of Renown. This is just a coffee table / art book of all the past year's armies out of the White Dwarf, without any real new material, but it's nicely done. Its very much a vanity piece, and not something you need, but the quality was good. Lots of eye candy that might be interesting to someone who doesn't have a subscription.

Forge World had so many new models, and I hardly got to picture any of them. This is the new Sicarius Venator, which is very pretty. I missed several Horus Heresy units in the flesh, and Lorgar, who I incidentally like from the photos other people have posted.

I then got to have a lovely talk to some of the sculptors who worked on the Dark Elf range and Mat Ward, who is absolutely adorable in person, as long as you don't troll the poor sod about stuff he did half a decade ago.

I sadly didn't get any good photos at this point, but I felt there was some good discussions about the Dark Elf range, which are worth including.

The new Dark Elf Warrior sprue is vastly under-rated. The sculpts are solid, but they are designed for ease of assembly, not for massive flexibility. The technical challenge of fitting three different weapon options onto the sprue is immense. It is packed right to the tolerance limits of what the current moulds can take, and both the sculptor and the production team have worked very close together to make that happen. The price point on them is surprisingly reasonable, because people are going to need to assemble large units of them, and the weapons options have crowded out any chance to do anything spectacular. This is something that I think GW is under-rated for - putting out solid core choice options with plenty of flexibility.

You then have the far more detailed and kit-bash friendly Witch Elves, which also have an alternate unit option. They are more exciting, they pop out, and they have, unsurprisingly, charged what they think they can get away with. You can complain all you want, but bluntly, I'll be picking some up for 40K kitbashes, and so will many, many other people.

I sadly didn't talk to anyone about the new Hydra and it's cousin, but I did get a chance to speak to some folk about the Cauldron of Blood. This is fascinating in a different way. You have a lot of different hands on it - one team put together the chassis itself, someone else had done some of the concept sketches, and someone else again did the girls, statues and the Medusa.

It gets me really excited from a kit bash stand point. The statue of Khaine could easily be painted as an Avatar of Khaine, just as he is. The Medusa is just a gorgeous model I want to paint for the sake of it, but could also quite happily be done as a bronze statue with verdigris - several of the parts could be used to decorate Dark Eldar vehicles . . . the list just goes on.

Which does lead on to the elephant in the room. Or rather . . . the breast in the room. The Medusa is showing a little more flesh than we usually see on GW models, but I think Aragorn has really pulled it off well. Specifically, you don't look at the bare breast when you see the model, but other focal points instead. I get the impression he probably had to have quite a few design discussions around that particular artistic choice, but I'm glad he stuck to his guns, because I think it's the right look artistically, and I hope there's not too many negative assumptions about it.

Tammy's gorgeous models, which I'm just going to
liberally dash through sections I don't have pics for

I also had some good chats with some of the more project-y people which gave some interesting insight into what's going on in the Studio at the moment. It is very, very hard to get anyone to point to how the decision making process works with regards to what armies are coming next. In particular, no-one is willing to identify who makes the decision. What follows is a mix of statement from staff and speculation about how it all fits together. I don't really hold it against them for keeping it quiet as to who makes the decision, because whoever that poor sod / committee is, they would get constant hatred, hassle and stress from the internet at large and any passing schmuck at a convention.

So, last year I commented on how GW is currently going through a "model led" cycle, where the book releases are being dictated by the models that the designers have come up with. This year, I've managed to get a little more detail on that.

It starts off with early concept sketches that are passed up to senior management. They look at a variety of factors. This includes if they think the idea is good enough / fits with the existing IP. It also covers current guidelines - you're seeing a lot of infantry kits with dual use right now, and that is not by chance - it's a deliberate decision.

They then need to work together enough different ideas to fit neatly into a release. Do you have an awesome headline unit that can go on the White Dwarf cover? Are you bringing some kits across out of metal or finecast and into plastic? That last bit leads into the next question. Will it make money? That does sound daft, but GW does need to pay the shareholders, so if you want to get a greenlight, your ideas need to be commercially viable. You need to get enough sales to pay for the sculptors, the painters, the book guys, the moulds, shipping the models around the world . . . a bad decision here would be very pricey for GW as a whole.

I hope that adds a bit more detail to "the sculptors come up with the kits". There can be more concrete guidances - like with the Dark Elves, where there was a very low percentage of plastic kits, so more love was clearly needed.

That does bode well in general for the other armies seeing neglect - Wood Elves, Bretonnians and Sisters of Battle spring to mind - but the Dark Elf release is a big one, and despite its size is not going to be as profitable as it could be. I strongly suspect that its placing after Space Marines is very deliberate, using the profits from Space Marines to reduce the risk of Dark Elves not selling as well as they might otherwise. I may have a look at what October has seen for the past couple of years, because it could be a good place to put a mid or lower range seller after a big splash in September for the start of the school year, and before November's start towards the Christmas push.

The Warhammer Quest game, which I have on my iPad, is going to get another expansion soon. The expansion is called "The Brutal Tribe". Three new warriors (Shadow Warriors, Bright Wizard and Ogre Irongut) and enemies of Savage Orcs and Stone Trolls.

I failed to get the name of this game. I'm a terrible person. It's a sideways scrolling shooty-blasty game with Space Marines vs Orks. You can't ever go backwards, because Space Marines never retreat. Nice, quick, simply retro fun. It looks ridiculous, and I want it.

Then I came to Slytherine's banner. I was moderately interested.

OK. Now I'm very interested. Armageddon the cardboard token game was something that came out when I was at school, and the Imperial Guard in it are something that holds my interest to this day as a player. I had a nice long chat with the games developers on this. They're looking at a turn based hex game, with a massive number of units.

And they have not released any screen shots so far. At the time I was talking to them, no-one had taken any shots of the screen either . . . so it looks like I have the world exclusive...

World exclusive!
I love the look of it. It's hex based, turn based, and totally retro. I remember playing games like this back in school when this was top of the range where I absolutely wished that I could be doing a 40K version. I even tried modding some, to precisely no success whatsoever.

Up on the balcony, I don't think they got as much footfall as they could have. I actually felt a little guilty when they offered to put me on their media mailing list. I'm really not in the sort of league that deserves that in terms of readership or followers. I try and be up front when I say that I'm a blogger that I go on to say that I'm also a rubbish one...

Still, this is going to be an absolute must buy for me when it comes out. Apparently it'll be iPad and PC first, then Android and similar later.

Oh, and some extra stuff - they're starting on the 2nd War for Armageddon, and if that's a success will move onto the 3rd War, but probably not the 1st, due to the oddness of massive psychic power use it may not make a great campaign. They'd probably then look at other races and theatres, depending on interest.

There was then a short detour when I spotted this was the state of the shopping area! I had some models to pick up for a friend, as well as wanting the show only model for me. I was tempted by a bit more Forge World and a bit more Direct Only stuff, but I held my course and didn't go too mad. I've stuck to the Event Only Forge World models and Marco Colombo (no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with him).

I had a nice interesting chat with Phil Kelly, firstly making sure he was not super mad at me for anything I said about him from Enter the Citadel. He wasn't. Which was good. If Phil Kelly hated me, I would not survive the internet long.

We had a quick chat while I side-stepped people coming for signatures until the queue got long enough that I got guilty and snuck along to Jervis. I'll explain Jervis' little game in a separate post, because this is going to be long enough as it is!

With Phil, we had a nice talk about how rules don't necessarily need to be sacrosanct, and if you want to make something up yourself, or do something cool, then you shouldn't be restricted by just the rules as they're currently written.

Between that and the joking around the "Best False Rumour", we did get into a bit of a discussion where he came out as a bit of a closet H'rud fan. The idea of an army design which is relatively physically weak, but works through aura type damage and weakening their opponents seemed to intrigue him a bit. It was completely spit-balling, so don't expect anything - it was something he and I kind of made up together on the spot. But it was a cool moment. It did also lead on to the comment that with the allies system, things like a small Xenos release weren't impossible any more, because you could start them off (or even keep them) as a small allied Codex to work with others.

So, recently Dakka had a post claiming that Jes Bickham was leaving White Dwarf. I posted at the time thinking it unlikely and pointing out that the Deputy Editor post was recently advertised, so it was likely that Andrew Kendrick was leaving / had left. At the time, people suggested it was because Jes was leaving and Andrew was taking over as full editor. As you'll see from the banner - Jes is still there, and Andrew has moved on to other projects. I did ask as well, and no, Jes is not planning on leaving in the near future. Rumours are a difficult thing to get right, so here's one that's actually properly cleared up.

I had a last minute dash around the Forge World stands and got a couple of last photos of some of the things that were there.

These are WiP, and not finished yet. There may still be some changes (there's debates about the head of the one who doesn't have an ax), but it gives a good idea on things. Impressively, some feedback I gave about the horror that is pipes that gap away from the main body (bridges ending up stronger than the model part) actually resulted in the sculptor (whose name I totally failed to get) saying that he'd be careful to avoid that. Did I just accidentally get involved in a design decision? It definitely had me feeling like feedback was listened to, in any event!

And finally, here was an assault claw all deployed and smashed into the side of a space ship. This display was gorgeous, and sadly, I didn't have time to grab any more photos of it.

I'll be posting a little bit of a summing up and an index page to all my Games Day posts some point soon, but this is now all the facts, rumours and wild speculation I managed to gather on my trip around Games Day 2013.

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